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Little use of Welsh in apprenticeships, says Welsh Language Commissioner

Education and the workplace are two all-important areas to reach the goal of a million Welsh speakers. In an event at the Royal Welsh Show, the Welsh Language Commissioner will hold a discussion on how to build better bridges between the two by developing Welsh language apprenticeship programmes.
In 2017 the Commissioner published a briefing note, ‘The position of the language in apprenticeship programmes in Wales’, which showed that there is currently very little use of the Welsh language in apprenticeships. The most recent data shows that:
  • in 2015-16, only 3.1% of work-based learning activities had been categorised as bilingual, and 0.4% as Welsh-medium;
  • in 2016-17, approximately 4% of apprenticeship programmes included at least one bilingual learning activity, and approximately 0.3% included at least one activity through the medium of Welsh;
  • since 2013-14, the percentage of apprenticeships including some Welsh has increased, but there has been no change in terms of Welsh-medium and bilingual learning.

In the session at the Show, the Commissioner will bring a panel of employers together to hear about their experiences of offering apprenticeships and the use of the Welsh language within them. The panel will include:

  • Carol Harry from Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board which is about to start offering a translation apprenticeship with Gower College Swansea;
  • Siân Davies of Gwili Jones agricultural machinery company, which has been employing apprentices who speak Welsh but who have not followed their apprenticeship through the medium of Welsh;
  • Gary Lewis, Director of Sport at the Urdd, which has ran an apprenticeship programme through the medium of Welsh since 2013.
Dafydd Evans (Chair of CollegesWales and Chief Executive of Grŵp Llandrillo Menai); Ryan Evans (NTfW) and Dr Dafydd Trystan (Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol) will also talk about the situation from the perspective of educational providers.
The Welsh Language Commissioner, Meri Huws, said: "The figures show that there is a huge gap in the provision, and that not enough is being done to seize the opportunities to ensure that pupils who receive Welsh-medium education at school are moving forward to use the language in the workplace, particularly in vocational jobs.
"There is a need to promote and support better engagement between providers, employers and learners. The Government also needs to be planning on a national level to develop capacity within the sector and to break down the barriers to increasing the use of Welsh in apprenticeships. As part of this, it should be ensured that enough people can train and assess through the medium of Welsh, that Welsh language materials are available and that encouragement and support is available to both employers and apprentices."
Carol Harry from Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board said ‘’We have Apprenticeship Academy which offers opportunities for learners to put one foot on the career ladder, get some work experience, and receive pay at the same time. Due to recruitment difficulties, we thought that this is the way ahead - recruit an apprentice, and in the end we will have a person with the required qualifications, skills and experience.’’
Although the 2011 Census showed that the highest percentage of Welsh-speakers work in the agriculture, energy and water industry, the use of the Welsh language in agriculture apprenticeships is low.
Siân Davies from Gwili Jones said: “We are a family run company based in Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire, and the Welsh language is a natural part of the business, both internally and in our dealings with customers. Recently we employed an apprentice, a Welsh-speaking young man from the local area. Although he used Welsh in the practical elements of the course, the written and learning elements were through the medium of English. "
The Urdd has been offering apprenticeships through the medium of Welsh in sports and outdoor activities for a number of years, and can offer training in Welsh to other organisations.
Gary Lewis of the Urdd said: “We are pleased to be able to offer work experience and training in the field of sports and outdoor activities through the medium of Welsh, and hope that this, in turn, will lead to increasing the Welsh-medium provision for children and young people."

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